In motoring terms, the letter ‘N’ mostly stands for ‘neutral’ (aka going nowhere).
But in the case of the Hyundai i20 N, nothing could be farther from the truth.
The maker has been spruiking the compact as bringing the DNA of its World Rally champion to the street as a daily driver.
And there is little evidence to seriously doubt this.
Powered by a 1.6-litre turbocharged direct injection petrol engine, mated with six-speed manual transmission, maximum power
of 150kW is enough to fire the hot hatch from zero to 100km/h in 6.7 seconds.
Based on the third-generation Turkish-built i20 hatch in Europe, the N version is no stripped out model on steroids.
There’s much to admire in comfort and convenience for this class of car.
What’s it cost?
At $34,990 plus on-road costs, which recently went up by $2000, is nothing to be sniffed at.
Pitted against the Ford Fiesta ST, Volkswagen Polo GTI and Suzuki Swift Sport, it serves up an encyclopedic list of performance goodies.
It can be had in five different colours: Polar White and Performance Blue, at no cost; or Metallic Sleek Silver, Mica Phantom Black and Mica Dragon Red — all $495. A black roof adds $1000.
The rally inspired look is designed to match high performance by minimising drag and boosting power.
Up front, air duct and splitter look the part, while out back a rather ragged design is topped off by a pared back rally-inspired roof mounted twin-layer spoiler that here looks more of an afterthought. Hopefully, it makes up in aerodynamic efficiency.
A black radiator grille, based on a chequered flag, is dominated by the Hyundai badge and (you’ve guessed it) the letter N.
LED headlights on both sides incorporate tick-shaped daytime running lights.
Fog lights flank a second grille strip low down. Whiz-bang wheel design, featuring red brake callipers peeking out from behind five Y-spoke 18-inchers, put the finishing touches to the hot hatch.
Storage is king, with spades in versatility. For example, there’s a multi-level boot with a movable floor, incorporating a fitted cargo net, in the upper position.
Drop the 60/40 rear backrests and there’s a flat load area.
Taking the floor out unveils a deep cubby in spite of there being a space-saver spare underneath.
The i20 N encompasses a plethora of computer-age automotive menus presented in twin 10.25-inch dashboard digital displays, offering instrument and entertainment info.
In fact, there’s almost too much to take in. Included are worldwide track maps with lap times; personalised throttle response settings, exhaust note and stability control — all accessed at the touch of two steering wheel-mounted switches.
Also on hand is a red button that calls up rev matching tech for optimised downshifts.
The instrument cluster has a range of display functions.
On a more relaxing note, the car is fitted with a Bose eight-speaker premium sound system.
Hyundai’s Smart Sense Advanced Drivers’ Assistance System tops up an already comprehensive safety package.
There’s such things as Forward Collision Assist City / inter-urban / pedestrian, Intelligent Speed Limit Assist, which warns when the speed limit has been exceeded; Lane Following Assist, which keeps the car centred between lane markings; and Blind Spot Collision Warning, an alert when a vehicle approaches the driver’s blind spot.
Passive safety is in the hands of six airbags.
What’s it go like?
Inside it’s Ns all round, with letter-specific touches such as N sport leather-trim seats with integrated headrests, leather wrapped N steering wheel and gear knob, plus sporty N alloy pedals.
The iconic red steering wheel-mounted Rev Button chips in with a tempting finishing touch.
Wheels pushed out to all four corners of the car offer up a spacious cabin, capable of carrying five grown-ups in relative comfort.
Front bucket seats offer ample support in recommended enthusiastic driving, while shoulder and leg room in the back can take all but the bulkiest footy front row at a push.
A 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder pumps out 150kW and 275Nm, matched with a six-speed manual gearbox and a mechanical limited-slip differential that drive the front wheels.
Fuel (regular unleaded) consumption of 6.9L/100km is claimed by the maker on the combined urban/highway cycle.
On test the lively hatch recorded 10.0L/100km and 4.7L/100km respectively.
An N Power Sense Axle up front and Dual Coupled Torsion Beam Axle at the rear provide stiff ride and handling, which did not miss a bump on the ubiquitous uneven Aussie road surfaces.
Trackwork is more to the hot hatch’s liking.
Steering is precise and direct thanks to reduced steering gear ratio over the standard model, while the limited-slip diff, plus 215/40R18 Pirelli P-Zero tyres, developed specifically for the i20 N, has the car efficiently carving through corners.
High performance brakes with bigger front discs resist fading, produce consistent pedal feel and maximise heat endurance.
What we like?
Rally inspired look
No stripped out model on steroids
Bose eight-speaker premium sound
Worldwide track maps with lap times
Comprehensive safety package
What we don’t like?
The bottom line?
Hyundai has put the brake on sending the i20 N Down Under, with the order book full and wait times approaching two years.
So the above chance for fun and games would appear academic. Know what I mean? Say no more.